Acoustic Ocean

Ursula Biemann

2018 | 00:18:50 | Norway | English | Color | Stereo | 16:9 | 4K video

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: Environment, Indigenous, Nature, Sound, Technology

Located on the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway, Acoustic Ocean sets out to explore the sonic ecology of marine life. The scientist as an explorer and important mediator of the contemporary understanding of our planetary ecosystems is a central figure in this video. She makes her appearance in the person of a Sami (indigenous of northern Scandinavia) biologist-diver who is using all sorts of hydrophones, parabolic mics and recording devices. Her task is to sense the submarine space for acoustic and other biological forms of expression. Sonic manifestations are vital modes of communication, navigation and survival for a great majority of deep-sea beings. Given the poor visibility in the deep sea, the sonic dimension is the primary means of communication, navigation, and survival in this penumbral liquid universe. 

Acoustic Ocean is a science fictional quest into an amphibian life world that is constituted by an assemblage of human, marine, machinic, organic, climatic, and digital elements, which are all utterly interdependent. A techno-organic bond links this aquanaut with her body, and with the sensorial instruments and the sonic environment of the vast multiplicity of sea creatures she is exploring. In this scientific array, any form of critical distance between the scientist, her research subject, and the instruments, is absent. They have all grown together. The hydrophones laid out like tentacles over the dark rocks, taking on characteristics of deep-sea creatures. This feminist posthuman figuration suggests a porosity, permeability, and connectivity of the human body with regards to water and the many life forms it sustains and ingests.

— Astrida Neimanis, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney

The artistic gesture of this artwork is that of rewriting a script for inter-species relations and of a mind-body intra-active form of knowledge creation. It addresses the science of a marine landscape by showing the scientific interest in the images and sounds of an altered sense. Acoustic Ocean draws on a range of recent scientific insights in its foray into modes of marine biological expressions, proposing an immersed image for the complex and fragile interactions and responses between humans and nonhuman, knowledge, and instruments in these multimedia landscapes.

Crew : Set designer Michael Graessner (Berlin) has designed the props for the marine scientist. Sofia Jannok, singer, musician and climate activist from the Sami Northern Scandinavian indigenous community is the performer. Lydia Zimmermann operates the camera (Barcelona/Zurich). Patrick Codenys (Brussels) is the sound designer.

The project has been supported by a generous grant from Pro Helvetia Swiss Council for the Arts.

Acoustic Ocean has been commissioned by the Atlantic Project After the Future — in the wake of utopian imaginaries, Plymouth,UK, curated by Tom Trevor.

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Anthology Film Archive
New York, NY

Exhibitions + Festivals

Eco-Visionaries, House of Electronic Arts, Basel and Umea, Sweden, 2018

Post-Nature, Taipei Biennial, Taiwan, 2018

Between Bodies, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, Washington, 2018 

The Power of Now, Centre Pasquart, Biel, 2018

Oceanic Feelings, Museum of Hessen, Germany

The Logic of Vertigo, Biennial of Media Art, Santiago de Chile

Vibrant Matter, Savoir indigene_Fictions cosmologiques, MAMAC Nice, France, 2020

Centre culturel Suisse, Paris, France, 2020

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